Twelve episodes into the moral, fiscal, and sartorial quagmire that is TRHONJ, it’s getting harder and harder to fathom why Caroline and Jacqueline are still hanging around. Did they forget their glasses or something? Step aside, ladies! Because, really, there’s no action left on this show that doesn’t reside with Teresa and Danielle. They’re the show’s emergent superpowers — all brute force and low-functioning decadence, paranoia, and insularity. The rest is just filler. Caroline has spent the entire season trying to back away slowly from her decision to participate in the show — packing the old Marlon Brando routine in mothballs, showcasing her wholesome family ad nauseam — while Jacqueline tries to undo nineteen years’ worth of bad parenting in a couple of episodes. Really, Andy Cohen? You’re going to make us watch what happens when Chris, Albie, and Lauren horse around in the home gym for fifteen minutes?
Frankly, we’re beyond their kitchen-table, ham-flinging folksiness, their woodchuck-in-the-headlights demeanor, their droopy berets and sassy attitudes. We’re inured. We’re in it for the damage. We’re here to watch the Giudices hurtle toward ruin at high speeds, their cheeks flapping in the g-force, while Danielle constructs edifices of denial and self-deception so rickety and complex they’re sure to come crashing down at any moment. (Actually, come to think of it, what was all that with the crying and the flinging of the arms around the tensed neck of the girls’ plainly remarried dad, while wearing her honking old engagement ring? Awk-ward. And awesome!)
Anyway, tonight’s life lessons were major, possibly salable:
1. Persistence really pays off when coupled with not listening.
For instance, say your husband is desperately trying to impart some very, very important information to you, first by having you tour the crappy apartment you may be forced to move into, next by assembling your offspring around a Monopoly table (the official game of the Great Depression!), and finally by sweating profusely while sitting absolutely still. What should you do? If you are Teresa, you demand that something be done to make your tenth anniversary very, very special as a kind of reparation for having children. If this doesn’t work, threaten husband with a sex strike. Respond to a friend’s joke about your wanting “the crown rules” by saying, “Naw! The crown jewels? Whaddya think I am, Arabic or something? Oh wait, isn’t that the crown jewels? Or is that Indian or something?”
Would it be cheaper and simpler for Joe just to hire a hooker to slap him, à la Don Draper? Probably. But Don Draper is a fictional character, and Joe is an idiot.
But if you follow these simple rules, you, too, might find yourself fishing a seven-carat yellow diamond from the chocolate-y cavity of a Bundt cake in a Westin in New Jersey as a Cambodian room service waiter looks on in bewilderment and horror.
2. There is no such thing as an event or special occasion that can’t somehow be twisted so that it becomes all about you.
When a previously undisclosed “friend” of Danielle’s rings the doorbell, we know something is up. Within moments the mystery is solved: She’s on the payroll! And she’s come to turn Christine’s sweet-16 party into everything Danielle ever hoped it would be. (“Amazingly, I’ve never had a birthday party thrown for me until I turned 47 years old!”) Namely: The televised launch of her 11-year-old daughter’s musical career — a career she doesn’t seem to want, because she’s 11.
Christine didn’t want a party either, but decided to donate all the money she “earns” to charity. (Simple malaprop or telling slip? Who can tell?)
“My daughter. I gave birth to her. I couldn’t be prouder,” says Danielle.
She also concludes that she must be doing something right, that she is — wait for it — the best mom in the world.
3. In today’s economy, a family is going to need two incomes to survive.
And there’s no law that says it can’t be the kids pulling in those incomes. Oh well, maybe there is, but whatever. It explains why Danielle is suddenly all Louis B. Mayer to Jillian’s Judy Garland. “It’s the beginning of your career, babe.”
But the kid is crying, and mommy is going on about how she is “going to be bigger than big” because she’s “truly passionate about [her] work,” and “this is mind-bogglingly huge” and “all of our happiness is important,” she says by way of a pre-party pep talk. “And what will make ME happy is … ”
As for the breakdown: “Artists have moods.”
And to Christine: “Don’t eat anymore of that chocolate. That’s gross.”
4. If you get kicked out of law school, there’s always cop school.
Albie joins the police academy. Temporarily, of course.
5. If Suri Cruise jumped off a bridge and you were 44 years her senior, would you jump, too?
Sure! As Danielle’s friend “Krazy Kathy” says to Jillian when she objects to the idea of wearing heels to her sister’s party on the grounds that she is 11, “You want a flash? Suri. Cruise. That little girl is 3 years old. She wears heels.”
Was that a newsflash or a hot flash? We’re not sure, but it was unequivocal either way.
6. And finally, a Zen moment in three acts.
Teresa has her moments of depth. For instance:
Teresa waxes philosophical: “Everyone has eyes … What is it? Love is in the eyes of the beholder … ”
Teresa suffers a brief crisis of confidence: “I think Joe’s hot!”
Teresa straddles Joe, and for a moment, confidence is regained. Tomorrow will be another day at the Westin, and the Giudices will emerge from peaceful slumber as they entered it: broke, inarticulate, horny, American.